Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thank you, America

For six years, this guy has traumatised an entire world. He invaded two countries. Scared many others. Continues to bully even now. Many commentrators are equating Iraq with Vietnam. All through George II was backed by both houses of the US Congress -- the House of Rep and the Senate. His party, the Republicans controlled them till Nov 6. Backed by his partymen, Bush led an American administration that has played an unprecedentedly negative and polarising role in the world's affairs. On Tuesday, in the midterm US congressional elections, American voters rebuffed Bush in spectacular style and with both instant and lasting political consequences. By large numbers and across almost every state of the union, the voters defeated Republican candidates and put the opposition Democrats back in charge of the House of Representatives for the first time in a dozen years.

When the remaining recounts and legal challenges are over, the Democrats may even have narrowly won control of the Senate too. Either way, the results change the political landscape in Washington for the final two years of this now thankfully diminished presidency. They also reassert a different and better United States that can again offer hope instead of despair to the world. Donald Rumsfeld's -- of the stuff happens fame -- resignation last night was a fitting climax to the voters' verdict. Thank you, America.

In US domestic terms, the 2006 midterms bring to an end the 12 intensely divisive years of Republican House rule that began under Newt Gingrich in 1994. These have been years of zealously and confrontational conservative politics that have shocked the world and, under Bush, have sent America's global standing plummeting. That long political hurricane has now at last blown itself out for a while, but not before leaving America with a terrible legacy that includes climate-change denial, the end of biological stem-cell research, an aid programme tied to abortion bans, a shockingly permissive gun culture, an embrace of capital punishment equalled only by some of the world's worst tyrannies, a president who frighteningly carries religion on sleeve.

Polls suggest that four issues counted most in these elections - corruption scandals, the economy, terrorism and Iraq. In the end, though, it was the continuing failure of the war in Iraq that has galvanised many Americans to do what much of the rest of the world had longed for them to do much earlier. It is too soon to say whether 2006 now marks a decisive rejection of the rest of the conservative agenda as well. Only those who do not know America well will imagine that it does.

The Democratic victory was very tight in many places, but its size should not be underestimated. November 7 was a decisive nationwide win for the progressive and moderate traditions in US political life. The final majority in the House will be at least 18. The recapture of the Senate, if it happens, will involve captures from the Republicans in the north-east, the north-west, the midwest and the south. The Democrats won seven new state governorships on Tuesday, including New York and Ohio, and now control a majority nationwide. Republican governors who held on, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and Charlie Crist in Florida, only did so by distancing themselves from Mr Bush. The statewide Democratic wins in Ohio give their 2008 presidential candidate a platform for doing what John Kerry failed to do in this crucial state in 2004.

The big questions under the new Congress will be the way that Bush responds to this unfamiliar reduction in his authority and whether the Democratic win will push the president into a new Iraq policy. Curiously, the departure of the disastrous Rumsfeld has come at least three years too late. He more than anyone else is the architect of America's humiliations in Iraq. It was truly an outrage that he remained in office for so long. American voters at last made this possible. For that alone the entire world owes them a deep gratitude.

It isn't yet morning in America, but for the first time in a long time, there's a morning star. Thank you, America.

Poop-- The Guardian